Minecraft: Xbox One Edition was developed by Mojang and 4J Studios and published by Microsoft Studios. It was released on Friday, September 5 2014 for $20 and is also available to owners of the Xbox 360 Edition for $4.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.
Well, someone had to do it. And that someone is me. Drawing the review for Minecraft: Xbox One Edition may have been the most challenging assignment of my XBLA Fans writing career, simply because there isn’t much left to write which hasn’t been written a million times before. When he reviewed the Xbox 360 version of this seminal mining/crafting/adventure game over two years ago, our reviewer opened with the throwaway line that even the most casual of weekend gamers must already have heard of Minecraft – and he was absolutely right.
So where does that leave us? Well, my review of the recently released Xbox One version will reinforce Minecraft‘s core elements for those already familiar with giving newcomers an introduction to those same elements. At the same time, I’m going to lay out some of the changes, no matter how subtle they may be, that differentiate this version from that of the last generation of consoles. Let’s dig in.
Bigger, longer, uncut — This isn’t going to be the most surprising news of the century, but it is a good thing nonetheless. Minecraft on the Xbox One features levels that are 32 times bigger than its last-generation version. It’s true that they are still smaller than the so-called “infinite mode” that PC gamers benefit from, but the automatically generated worlds of Microsoft’s newly released toybox are nonetheless huge, and getting lost is now easier than ever. Equally predictable but also welcome is the noticeable performance upgrade that the Xbox One provides — fast movement, quick turns and other relatively intense situations (like explosions) are now handled smoothly and with ease by the more-powerful hardware. This is a benefit that also extends to draw distance; pop up is still present, but it happens at such a massive distance away that it rarely feels like a major problem.
Slicker — Aside from the expected technical improvements described above, Minecraft: Xbox One Edition also benefits from a number of minor interface improvements that serve to either improve the initial bedding-in period for new players, or to enhance the experience for old hands. It’s a simple thing, but the new inventory interface that features a system of tabs that help players quickly craft and select items is quite a revelation and certainly helps to enhance the console experience. It’s an iterative upgrade, but a worthwhile one nonetheless. A number of other small additions also help, including more (and more useful) tutorial windows that have been introduced to further improve the experience for new players.
Welcome back — For returning Xbox 360 players, Minecraft on the Xbox One offers almost unbeatable value, with a huge reduction on the ticket price down to $5/£3.59. Assuming you enjoyed the gameplay experience at all, or at least plan to return at some point in the next five or six years, this seems like an absolute no brainer. Another key benefit is that worlds saved on the Xbox 360 can be saved to the Microsoft Cloud — just one at a time, though — and then downloaded onto the Xbox One. Sadly, the additional world size that the Xbox One release offers does not translate to transferred worlds, but the improvement in smoothness and draw distance certainly does. Another small note here is that all paid DLC bought for the Xbox 360 version can be re-downloaded into the Xbox One Edition at no additional cost.
Ongoing support — Fans of Minecraft who own Xbox One consoles will already be rejoicing about the transition of their beloved game onto Microsoft’s next-generation console, but this isn’t a simple port of a popular game. No, this is Minecraft we’re talking about here after all! Minecraft has a long legacy of continuous improvement through patches large and small, and the recent acquisition of the IP by Microsoft itself is testament to how important it has become to the future of the Xbox brand. You can expect no shortage of both paid and value-added DLC on Xbox One, and that’s in addition to the 20 or so compatible DLC packs that have already been released for Xbox 360.
Here’s what we didn’t like:
Minecraft is Minecraft – As I wrote at the start of this review, the most challenging thing about reviewing Minecraft is finding something to say that readers won’t already know. The truth is that the Xbox One edition of Minecraft is bigger, better and equally time-consuming as any other version, but it suffers from the same problems. If you’ve already decided that this isn’t a game for you, then there is nothing here that will change your mind. You’ll still be looking at blocky, colourful, visuals. You’ll still be digging and chopping and building and wielding a wooden sword while facing mobs who blow up everything you’ve created. And then you’ll be doing it all over again for hours and hours — if that’s your sort of thing.
On that note I suppose I should conclude with a few thoughts that spring to mind when discussing Minecraft with friends. This is a sandbox game in the truest and perhaps most literal sense. It really is what you make it, and as a result, whether you’re playing in adventure mode or creative mode, it requires true dedication and effort to see how truly great it can be. There are a number of ways to play Minecraft and many types of player who play it. There are those who genuinely like the challenge of adventure mode with mobs switched on, and there are those who love the digging, exploring and building but don’t need the bad guys. Others just love the creative mode — building the tallest and most amazing feats of architecture, or even recreating their own towns and sharing them on YouTube (a feature made much easier on Xbox One by Twitch support.) All in all, Minecraft is a must-have for any Xbox One (or Xbox 360 owner) but then, you do need to get it to feel that way, and I know that, so don’t worry too much if you don’t.
Score: Buy it